State bills aim to increase transparency in campaign fundraising

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This 2014 attack ad was paid for by a 527 ("dark money") political group.
  • This 2014 attack ad was paid for by a 527 ("dark money") political group.

Secretary of State Jena Griswold is championing two bills she developed with state lawmakers to change Colorado's system for enforcing fair campaign practices.

After all, she "ran for office to reform money in politics," notes a release from her office announcing the introduction of both bills.

The first, House Bill 1318 — dubbed "The Clean Campaign Act of 2019" — would prohibit foreign governments and corporations, as well as any person who is not an American citizen, from contributing to state election campaigns. It also requires "Paid for by" disclosures on campaign communications, and tightens rules related to independent expenditure committees, or IECs, that raise money for political candidates before they officially declare an intent to run for office. It's sponsored by Rep. Mike Weissman, D-Aurora, along with Sens. Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village, and Mike Foote, D-Lafayette.

More than $82 million was donated to IECs — which Griswold calls "Colorado's version of a SuperPAC" — during the 2018 election cycle in Colorado, the release says. Of that $82 million, 75 percent came in donations of $100,000 or more, and over 80 percent came from corporations or sources that are "hard to trace."



“Too often, Coloradans feel that their politicians are beholden to big money special interests, and that the rich and powerful are allowed to side-step the rules,” Griswold is quoted as saying. “Right now in Colorado, a $50 contribution to a candidate is more transparent than a $50,000 contribution to Colorado’s version of a SuperPAC. It’s time to put democracy back in the hands of everyday Coloradans."

The second piece of legislation, Senate Bill 232, is titled "Campaign Finance Enforcement" and is also sponsored by Foote and Weissman. It codifies the rules put in place after a U.S. District Court judge determined in 2018 that Colorado's campaign finance enforcement system was unconstitutional. The rules include procedures for filing, reviewing and investigating complaints of unfair campaign practices.

Interestingly, the system ruled unconstitutional was created through a ballot initiative. It mandated that every complaint of a campaign finance violation get a hearing, and did not include a mechanism for filtering out bad complaints, according to the National Law Review.

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